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Should these Brooklyn ‘backlog’ properties be landmarked? Speak now or forever hold your peace

Eye On Real Estate

September 9, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to Lady Moody's House in Gravesend. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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Beware of landmarking fatigue.

It’s an expression we just made up, but it could be very real.

Just as psychological counselors can fall prey to empathy fatigue, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) could be hit by terrible weariness starting next month.

The cause would be sensory overload from perusing thousands of pages of documents about 95 properties that were calendared five years ago or more for possible designation as city landmarks.

The commissioners will hold four public hearings to consider fresh testimony about these properties as a step towards clearing up the backlog. Oct. 8 is the hearing date for seven Brooklyn properties that are on the backlog list.


Lady Moody’s House

“I’m worried,” said Joseph Ditta, an expert on the history of Gravesend, who is waging an online campaign to muster support for landmark designation for Lady Moody’s House. “What are they going to read? What are they going to pay attention to? I lose sleep over these things.”

The LPC calendared Lady Moody’s House, located at 27 Gravesend Neck Road, in 1966 — before Ditta, age 48, was born.

Ditta, who has lived in Gravesend his whole life, was invited inside the famous farmhouse a decade ago and still remembers it vividly.

He saw a beam where a 19th-Century owner of the house, Thomas Hicks, had carved his initials. He saw two 18th-Century mantelpieces and a staircase that’s probably also from the 18th Century. A cellar dug in the early 20th Century was “very spooky.”

To be sure, the house has been altered, but passersby can see it’s a living piece of Brooklyn history.

“That sloped roof of the Dutch farmhouse is unmistakable,” Ditta said.

Lady Moody’s House and the Van Sicklen Family Cemetery on the opposite side of Gravesend Neck Road together form a historic vista that’s unique to the neighborhood.

“It has been unchanging. It’s the center of the community. Boom — you see this and you can only be in Gravesend,” Ditta said.

Lady Moody’s House belongs to Anita Anderson, city Finance Department records indicate. The house is up for sale.

Make your voice heard

Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan had planned to wipe the 95 backlog properties off the LPC’s calendar but changed course after objections from preservationists and politicians. A tip of the hat to for leading the way on coverage of Srinivasan’s now-abandoned decalendaring plan.

This is everybody’s last chance to sound off about the borough’s seven backlog properties. Those who wish to speak at the hearing must register in advance and submit written statements to [email protected] by Oct. 1. For those who can’t attend, written statements will serve as testimony.

Here are other Brooklyn backlog properties: 

185-195 Broadway

The calla lilies are in bloom again.

Katharine Hepburn’s line from the film “Stage Door” comes to mind when we gaze upon handsome 185-195 Broadway. This Williamsburg factory, constructed in 1882, has pilasters decorated with calla lily designs.

It’s “one of the finest surviving cast-iron buildings in Brooklyn,” a 1990 LPC report said.

It belongs to Forman-Family Inc., Finance Department records indicate. The family owns Peter Luger — the famous steak house right across the street.

In late August, the city Buildings Department approved Forman-Family Inc.’s application to convert 185-195 Broadway from a manufacturing building to an office property, online records show.

Williamsburgh Trust Company Building

This Beaux-Arts beauty, built in 1906, originally housed the Williamsburgh Trust Company.

The domed building with its glazed white terra cotta façade and marble columns stands right alongside the Williamsburg Bridge’s bike ramp. The LPC calendared 177 S. 5th St. in 1966.

It’s now the home of Holy Trinity Cathedral-Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which uses 185 S. 5th St. as its address. The church bought the building from the City of New York in 1961, according to a story. Online Finance Department records don’t go back that far, so we haven’t seen the deed.

Coney Island Pumping Station

Water, water, every where, as Coleridge would say.

The City of New York constructed the lozenge-shaped Art Deco building at 2301 Neptune Ave. in Coney Island as a Fire Service Pumping Station in 1937.

Now locked up tight and the worse for the wear, the building could be renovated and turned into something terrific. In the meantime, the land surrounding it serves as a community garden.

St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church

This Spanish Baroque church looks like it belongs in Bogotá.

But here it is, right in Bushwick, built in 1907.

Interestingly, when St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church was built, the parish was made up of German immigrants.

This house of worship with its two tall towers is eye-popping even though it is mostly covered by construction netting. It is located at 138 Bleecker St., with 299-307 Central Ave. as a second address.

St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church and Rectory

Another neighborhood, another amazing church.

This one’s a Gothic Revival stunner built in 1888 and calendared for landmarking consideration in 1966.

St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church and Rectory in Park Slope is at 49 Sterling Place. Its second address is 116-130 Sixth Ave.

The church building is covered with sidewalk sheds and construction netting, but what’s underneath looks wonderful.

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